#O100: Lessons from 100

My 100th oil painting since I started painting again around April this year. Below are some of the lessons I learnt so far on this journey of painting (and also blogging) – these could be especially useful if you have limited time and energy to paint:

Remove Obstacles: if you have limited time and energy time to paint, get your studio area organized so you have no excuses not to paint in your free time. At one stage I realized cleaning my palette was an irritation because my work area was cramped and everything wobbled as I wiped and scraped the palette clean. When I had a quick 30 minutes free to paint, I would always think – “Its not worth all that cleaning up afterward”.

So  I invested in a large, $20 worth’s piece of thick glass and placed this more sturdily where I could work more effectively. I re-organized the area so that I could easily clean up even a large mess of oil paint within minutes. I took note: “It only takes 4 minutes”.

View Paintings as a WIP: when I started painting again this year, I painted small and tried to complete one painting a day. This worked well at the start. But over time I realized this pattern was not good for me. It felt as if each session should produce something decent to post on my blog else it was a failure. I realized this created tension and kept me from painting – especially if I was down (can you believe, I am sometimes down!) or felt rushed. This was because I would think “Why bother, I will never finish a painting in the 40 minute before XYZ happens”.

So I changed tack – I started working larger, and deliberately started two paintings at the same time. Then in each session I just worked on the next part of any of the paintings where it was most needed. My productivity and attitude while painting immediately improved.

Even if I had only 20 minutes to paint, I could use that to start the first stages of one or two paintings. Or go and touch up the sky or foreground. I also relaxed and realized how malleable an oil painting is – it can remain a work in progress for months, even years. It is done when you think it is.

Keep Looking for your Groove – it Moves Around: some time ago I did not know what to paint. I found no heart of inspiration from painting still lifes or even my beautiful surroundings. I found some inspiration from my invented charcoal landscapes, but it was a hit and miss affair.

I kept trying. At some stage, I started to find more and more inspiration in photos taken during my daily walks. I had found a ready-to-hand source of material that inspired me and that I could use.  I really felt I had arrived. In recent weeks, I sense a change again – a move back to my invented landscapes.

I see this as an unfolding of part of my inner creative self. It is a movement I do not control. It takes perhaps an observant mind and at least a 100 paintings to start seeing that a painting journey has seasons that we do not always control. Roll with it!

Paint, Paint, Paint – in Sickness and in Health: I often feel tired, depressed, unmotivated. I constantly ask myself why I bother painting.I have no answers. I try my best to paint regardless. I have a canvas pad that I use for such occasions. I tape a piece of canvas my easel and squeeze out some Raw Sienna and mix it with lots of OMS. I paint loose and wild – if I feel frustrated or angry I let it show.

Many times I have been gobsmacked by the change in my attitude that comes from such a session. I have a small painting I started yesterday in this manner, and it is one of the best I have made. At the very least, it is a great sketch for a more finished painting. [I hope to post this soon].

In this same vein, it may be of use to consider the advice given by Barbara Jeanicke, which I posted as Quote #1 on this page, together with a link to the original post by Mrs Jeanicke.

Paint or Blog? Get your Priorities Straight: When I decided to start a blog, it was to have a log of my paintings and note down some of my semi-private thoughts to share with friends. I thought no one would ever read it. I was amazed when my first post got a like – “How did they know of my blog?”, I wondered. (I only later found out all new blogs go on the Reader where others could see it!).

At times I have lost focus and spent more time blogging, looking at blogs and such. I made a decision to limit my blogging time to a short but punchy post (nobody REALLY reads it attentively…do they?) and then check some of the blogs I follow only on weekends. The rest of my free time I paint and then paint a bit more when others are not looking.

Oh yes – if you are new to blogging as a painter, know that MANY LIKES DO NOT A GOOD PAINTING MAKE. [Example, check out this blog. The artist is in a whole other (better!) league than I am, yet she only receives one or two likes per post. But she rarely replies to comments – obviously she is too busy painting!]

Often the number of likes is more a reflection of how active a blogger is – one can literally whip up lots of likes by buzzing around and getting others to follow you. No harm in that – but if you want to be an artist there are probably better things to do!


That’s it for now, I hope the above is of value to someone out there!

I am pooped, will try and add a poem to my post later on!




16 thoughts on “#O100: Lessons from 100

      1. AH Fritz, I’m a bit of a tart for posting. I’ve only been blogging 6 months, but I’ve been putting up about 3 per day – one for the prompt (from the archives) one ‘post-a-day) and one from a completed set – like the drought – at present.

        I just can’t resist multi-posting, though for a lot of years before I wrote almost exclusively for one.

        Just a tart.




  1. Good to see how your thoughts and art are progressing. I like that sky, ours was the same colour on my way home from work today. Blogging is such a funny old thing isn’t it, I started mine for myself, but picked up a few people along the way who visit regularly and I visit in return, I am lucky to have enough time to do so, but I am not a ‘stat hound’ and I don’t really mind if no-one visits. Keep going on your journey FD, your lovely art is always a blessing to the eyes. (BTW I always read blogs I like attentively!) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much FR! Yes, blogging is indeed a funny thing – I learn a lot about myself, question things a lot and find it quite a useful development exercise overall. But one has to keep a sense of humor eh?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the painting is really powerful. Love the huge, heavy cloud and the ethereal space above it and the solid looking ground below it.

    Congratulations on your 100th painting. I think your blog was a little frustrating for me at first because the early digit works were so strong (and I guess my nature inclines toward optimism and I’m still wondering what “started painting again” means) and yet you were often discouraged about them and were often chronicling their “mistakes.” But the mood of this post is very different and clearly the milestone of 100 paintings has given you a new (and well deserved!) confidence.

    The advice you share is splendid. I hope that your readers will feel emboldened. Realizing that a painting might come off in one session is grand — but the insight that paintings are often developed over several sessions (or across even longer time spans) is a big, positive sea change — such a really wonderful new outlook. So is the advice about painting despite one’s mood. And your insight about the canvas pad, OMS, loose and wild approach is inspiring. A lot of art is plain hard work and going about it in that spirit leads to discoveries, to the development of stronger skills and toward a genuine fluency with paint.

    I’ve been thoroughly enjoying the first 100 and here’s to the many, many more to follow! Bravo!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks very much Aletha. I have valued your encouragement and comments since I started my blog. I realize I can seem a bit self-critical at times! In my defense – and I realize this may not sit well with everyone – I have to say I deeply value authenticity. Professional artists probably cannot go around criticizing their own work all the time. They show a face to the world that is confident and proud. A sense of self-promotion is needed. But I am a novice painter and I do make mistakes. My blog is very much for me and for my children perhaps to consider when I am no longer here one day. So it will be important for me to look back and see what I thought of a specific painting at the time – hence you often find some blunt self-criticism on my blog. The same goes for dark moods – this is part of life, or MY life, at least. I am honest about this, but I try to keep it in check in case someone reads it! So maybe that offers some understanding of my style of blogging about my paintings.

      Oh yes – and about the “since I started painting again”. Nothing sinister there! About 10 years ago I moved to New Zealand and had to basically start from scratch to re-build a business and a financial foundation for my family. Before that, I painted a fair bit – mostly watercolors. This year – after some false starts the past 9 years – I at last found some time to establish a regular painting routine again. That’s the story!

      Many thanks again for your deep and insightful comments which I always appreciate. I hope you are well and getting lots of joy from your art!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think it’s a difference in thinking and emotional constitutions that accounted for my initial (somewhat) frustrated reactions (sometimes). But I totally agree that blogging highlights personal styles — and should — and so your honesty is important to you and needs to be there — and, yes, life has its darkness that we all have to deal with in our various ways. The optimism that I alluded to — while I am perhaps an optimist generally (I think?) I was really addressing a species of artistic optimism. So much of the foundation of art depends upon learning — learning skills, getting ideas for things, looking at a wide range of things and pictures of things that are in the world and coming to various kinds of understanding about them — and I think that the best learning takes place when it parallels the learning that we began as children — when it arises from curiosity, a sense of adventure, a willingness to try new things, and so on, which are essentially optimistic ways of relating to the universe. Since painting is not a dangerous occupation, it seems like one could be utterly adventurous and heedless of obstacles.

        I suppose I am blinded somewhat to ways that my idea is at least partly unrealistic. Most artists have lots of inhibitions, myself included. While painting isn’t physically dangerous, perhaps it is psychologically risky sometimes. For some artists the psychological hazards are daunting. I had many hang ups about art when I was young. So, who knows? Maybe I am just peevish and too curmudgeonly to admit that you were right and I was wrong? Or something. Who knows.

        Professional artists, as you say, probably cannot freely criticize their work for economic reasons. And that’s unfortunate since it’s they who probably would most benefit from a keener, more skeptical scrutiny. (Let’s hope they do criticize things privately.) Degas said that art is easy when you don’t know how to do it and very difficult when you do. [“La peinture, c’est très facile quand vous ne savez pas comment faire. Quand vous le savez, c’est très difficile.”] I look at various paintings in commercial galleries and wish that the artists would venture beyond technique, would forego the slick or try out something a little different from the same ol’ same old. The more skillful the artist, the more I wish he’d risk falling on his fanny. What is the point of skill if one does so little with it?

        One thing I have enjoyed about your art from first seeing it is its directness. You are not doing landscape in a new way. But then neither is Nature. Your paintings have the kind of repetition in them that echoes Nature’s own repetitions. I like your paintings more than some of the contemporary professional artists whose names you sometimes mention. It is difficult to use technique as a tool to express something genuine in Nature. (By “technique” I mean nothing more than how the paint gets onto the canvas.) It is comparatively easy to use technique as a convention for replicating various styles of painting. The conventional approach takes skill, but once the artist has achieved those skills it’s like manufacturing. Your paintings, by contrast, do not look like you churn them out. Each one has a connectedness to these places you portray that probably relates to your walks, your musings, the ideas that you find in poetry and so on. And that sensibility comes through so that while they are all similar to each other one enjoys the path through the pictures like one always enjoys again seeing various familiar things in life — the way that I like the tree across the way in different kinds of weather and in different seasons ….

        So my wish for you — whether you ever sell your art or no — is that you never become a “professional” in that one sense. May you never reach the point that you know what you’re doing! And hope for me that I never do either.

        Thank you for the good wish — I am enjoying my art — especially still life — it connects me to these silly objects that I cherish, my thrift store treasures and all the air and space in between them and to the pretty photons that bounce around inside the spaces, rattling the insides of my brain.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I have read your comment above several times. There is much for me and I hope others to think about. It is definitely not a question of who is right or wrong. As a matter of fact, your early advice to remain loose and playful (wear a funny hat) has stayed with me so often and I have really benefited from it. So in our discussion here, I think there are two things (a) our approach to the process of making art; and (b) our mental consideration and expression of the meaning of it all.

        I think your optimistic approach deals primarily with (a) above. I am perhaps more intrigued by (b). To give you an idea – your phrase “painting is psychologically risky sometimes” hit me right in the gut (in a good way). There is a world of nuances and twilight in that statement, and I am moved by this. Really, my painting if anything is more an answer to the question: “why do I feel the need to paint”, than a response to the visual world. When I analyze and express this in my blog – it comes across at times as dark and perhaps critical?

        But as far as the attitude while painting is concerned – I think you are 100% right in being optimistic and playful about it. It certainly worked for me and I am thankful to you for that advice – for example, I have started to hold my brush differently when doing the initial stages. This is the typical artists’s sideways hold rather than like a pencil – it is impossible to paint detail in this way which keeps me loose and playful in those initial stages.

        Many thanks for your very kind and supportive comments about my paintings. I often wonder if my paintings are good enough to sell, and I have this sneaky idea that once I get to #300 I will start thinking about some sort of marketing. But let’s see what happens until then.

        I think your own still lifes are amazing and I completely understand the joy you get from painting old familiar friends. Chardin, Anna Hills, Jane Peterson and others have found the same joy, so there is such a rich tradition for you to follow.

        Thanks again (man, the discussions we could have had if we were neighbors!).

        Liked by 1 person

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